Thursday, 6 October 2011

SSL Nucleus at Nidaros Studio

(SSL Nucleus demo-session in Trondheim, Norway)

The Norwegian company Benum is distributing SSL’s new DAW controller Nucleus. Together with SSL’s own Nathan Hernando they are currently doing a tour of Norway where they are exhibiting the unit. My first hands-on introduction to the Nucleus was with Gary Bromham from Sound Technology at the Music Production Show in Leeds earlier this year. But when SSL made the journey to Nidaros Studio in Trondheim we didn’t reject the offer to get even further under the skin of it.

What is striking with the Nucleus is how much control it provides over the computer domain. Not only can it control different DAWs that run at the same time, but it can also flip between different computers in just the push of a button. Where different computers are connected to the same screen, keyboard and mouse, it’ll make the KVM controller switch for you in the same go. Not exactly rocket science, but it is a welcome feature for those of us who used to push buttons on switches and screens to get there.

To ensure compatibility with all major sequencers the Nucleus supports both HUI and MCU protocols, while also working as a midi-interface if you still need one. The audio interface has two lines in and two lines out and the input boasts SSL’s SuperAnalogue™ pre-amps.

Two other features to be mentioned is firstly how you can programme it to do a standard task (or a number of them) that you perform a lot. There are several ways of doing this on most DAWs and controllers. But with the ability to programme a number of commands in a long sequence, the Nucleus stands out with the share extend of what can be done in just one click. A funny story from a trade show is how the SSL-crew programmed the “play” button on the transport section to “highlight all, and delete!” A poor fellow walked up to the rig and hit play. One of the day’s highlights, the staff was almost rolling on the floor with laughter watching it!

The other aspect that caught my attention was how every tiniest controllable option in the DAW can appear on the Nucleus’s menus. The way the Nucleus picks up everything that can be changed or automated definitely makes it Euphonix’s most worthy competitor (or vice versa).

Dreaming about the future; imagine a Nucleus with 8 I/Os or more. It could be used for both tracking and connection to your favourite outboards. It would tidy up your racks and be great as a complete solution for travelling producers or small studios. The SSL Matrix isn’t exactly portable, and if you’ve already got a speaker controller and the I/Os and pre-amps you need, the Euphonix banks are serious contenders. The Euphonixes can also be purchased one module at the time for a more gradual investment or a tailored solution. Another thing I would really love to see is an alternate monitor switch in the listening section.

Dreams aside, the Nucleus is one of the best options on the marked if you’re not looking for a larger console to control your DAW. About ten of these have already been sold in Norway and I believe a steady stream of them will be sold into education, production rooms and well-stocked home-studios in the time to come. Every sale is well deserved, for it is a great piece of kit that makes mixing in the box a whole lot more organic!

(A couple of days later…

I walked into a music store and suddenly found myself standing in front of a Euphonix artist series controller. With its plastic fader-caps and none of those big chunky transport-buttons of the SSL I felt I was definitely missing something. Maybe the race is closer now than what I first thought.)

(Two generations of SSL in one room.)

(The Mynx gives you SSL SuperAnalogue™ stereo Eq and Compressor in a small desktop unit.)

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